Pieces Falling Into Place for the Cubs

With the All-Star game now in our rear-view mirror, it’s time to look ahead to the second half of the season. A couple of days ago, my colleague Brennan Barry did just that, surmising that the second half of the season will be just as bleak as the first – and he’s right.

At least, on the wins and losses front. To me, however, this season was never – and still isn’t – about wins and losses. What excites me about this year is that we’re finally starting to see the pieces come together in a way that fans of this team never have before.

Sure, we’ve seen a few big trades – Nomar Garciaparra and Aramis Ramirez come to mind – and we’ve seen a big signing or two – such as Alfonso Soriano, but we’ve never seen a methodical rebuilding before. At least not in my lifetime. And that’s what we’re seeing this year.

A couple of weeks ago, we got our first taste of Anthony Rizzo. He and Starlin Castro have begun to show fans what the young middle of the Cubs’ lineup might one day look like.

In the coming weeks, the Cubs are all but certain to wave goodbye to Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza, and a hand full of other names that might include Soriano, Bryan LaHair, Geovany Soto, David DeJesus or maybe even Tony Campana or Darwin Barney.

In those impending deals, the Cubs will likely pick up another piece or two for the future, but also clear some room for those who are ready to move up from the minors.

By the end of the season, we will likely see Brett Jackson and possibly even Josh Vitters patrolling centerfield and third base, respectively. Of course, there are going to be some growing pains anytime a team has an assortment of young players like this, and that will likely effect the Cubs’ record next season. But, the point is that the pieces are finally starting to fall in place.

Once Vitters and Jackson make the move, the Cubs lineup will begin to look a lot more like the one that Theo Epstien and Jed Hoyer hope will one day lead Chicago to that long-awaited championship. Once they come up – the lineup looks like this:

??

Brett Jackson

Starlin Castro

Anthony Rizzo

Josh Vitters

??

??

Darwin Barney (possibly?)

PITCHER

Now, look another year into the future and maybe you see Jorge Soler make his major league debut. Maybe that dream lineup changes again:

??

Starlin Castro

Anthony Rizzo

Jorge Soler

Josh Vitters

Brett Jackson

??

Darwin Barney (possibly?)

PITCHER

That’s a lineup that, if a few things turn out right, could be very, very good one day. Of course, it’s also a lineup that could fall flat on its face. But with the continued success of Castro and the early signs we’ve seen from Rizzo – it seems like all is well so far. It also appears that Vitters has finally figured it out down in AAA, as he currently sits with a season stat line of .302 AVG/.356 OBP/.509 SLG to go along with 13 HR. And those numbers are actually dragged down by a poor month of April.

In June, Vitters hit .324/.387/.583, and so far through eight games in July he’s hitting .375/.432/.563. Add that to a relatively solid May stat line and you have two, going on three, straight months of rapidly improving production.

Jackson is also picking it up. After a terrible April and an only slightly improved May, Jackson hit .282/.352/.545 in June and has hit .294/.368/.471 so far in July. He also significantly upped his power production in June, hitting seven doubles, two triples and six homers.

All in all, things are starting to look up for this team. The record might not show it, but the pieces are falling into place, and they should continue to do so in the second half. The changes will seem slow, there are sure to be setbacks and there will be plenty of disappointing losses along the way. But fans can take solace in the fact that not only are the positive changes happening, but we’re going to continue to watch them happen throughout the second half of this season.

That, in and of itself, is reason to be excited about the second half of this dismal season, to me.

Follow me on Twitter @MidwayJME

 

  • Lou

    Yes, things are looking better. Hope they continue. My hat is really off to all of the players for playing in this hot and dry weather. It does not seem possible that the season is half over. Even though the Cubs have not set the world on fire, there certainly have been moments when they have been loads of fun to watch. Looking forward to the 2nd half of the season.

    • Jamie Bradley

       Agreed. The pitching staff still has a lot of questions going forward, but we’re starting to see the offensive pieces to the puzzle slowly fitting together. I’m excited for what’s to come.

  • Kevin

    *affect not effect.